Wrestlemania XXXI Match Preview – Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match

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Likely to be the most purely exciting match on the Wrestlemania card, the Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match also has a good deal of intrigue regarding the finish. The level of athleticism represented by the match’s seven entrants promises for a visual spectacle, and the uncertain finish makes this one of the most highly anticipated matches at this year’s Showcase of Immortals.

It’s been fascinating to watch the build for this match as it progressed. The program first seemed to be centered around Dean Ambrose, Bad News Barrett — and to an extent —  R-Truth and Dolph Ziggler. In recent weeks, the storyline has maintained a laser focus on Ziggler and Daniel Bryan, while also tossing Luke Harper and Stardust into the fray.

One of the best aspects of this match is that I can make a very good argument for each of Bryan, Ziggler and Ambrose to win it. I believe Bryan is still unquestionably the favorite. He’s still not where fans want him on the card, but winning this match would still be a nice Wrestlemania moment. Also, Bryan as champ would unquestionably raise the prestige of the IC Title far beyond the level it’s been at for a very long time.

As for Dean Ambrose, “The Lunatic Fringe” has lost a truckload of momentum over the last five months. He’s gone from being the most over former Shield member to being the only one without a major singles match on the Wrestlemania card. A win here would get that momentum back. Of all the wrestlers in this match, Ambrose might be the one who a victory would benefit the most…

…but then you have to consider the way this match’s build has been booked recently. Dolph Ziggler and Bryan have been front and center, with Ziggler pinning Bryan to conclude the gauntlet match on last week’s Smackdown. Then, on this week’s Raw, Ziggler defeated Bryan again in the show’s main-event match. Sure, Ambrose was there too — as the guest referee — but as for his actual wrestling, he was relegated to teaming with R-Truth in Raw’s first hour.

This program seems to be leading to Ziggler turning on Bryan, providing fans with an Intercontinental Championship feud that could main-event any non-Big-Four PPV. Thus, it makes the most sense for Bryan to win — with Ziggler turning on him after the match — or for Ziggler to turn on Bryan during the match, and win the title himself. The storyline is already there. Ambrose doesn’t have any well-defined feuds to develop from a win in this match. Thus — while I still think all three have a very legitimate chance at winning — I’ll say that the list goes Bryan, Ziggler, Ambrose, in that order.

Bad News Barrett has been little more than a glorified jobber for months, and his title reign has damaged both himself and the Intercontinental Championship. There is absolutely no way he retains.

Luke Harper is likely only in this match because he held the title briefly a few months ago (remember that?). His involvement in this match feels very ancillary.

Speaking of ancillary involvement, what the heck is Stardust doing here? I can only assume that Goldust will interfere to cost Stardust the match. My reasoning here is that perhaps WWE just didn’t have time on the card for Goldust/Stardust II, and are saving it for Extreme Rules, when they’ll be able to give the match some more time. Involving the angle in this match gives them an easy chance to continue it, plus Stardust’s athleticism will allow him to play the “Kofi Kingston role” in the match, with a couple of big memorable spots.

The only other guy who I can make even a *slight* argument for winning this match is R-Truth. He’s 43 years old, and it wouldn’t be surprising to me if he’s winding down his career soon. Having Truth go over in this match would be a nice gesture to a guy who’s been an underrated talent for years. Still, I wouldn’t give this more than a 3-5% chance of happening. It’s easier to see him winning than it is to see Barrett, Harper or Stardust, so I’ll give him an ever-so-slight chance as a dark horse.

Match Prediction: Daniel Bryan wins. After the match, a jealous Dolph Ziggler attacks Bryan, turning heel and kicking off a months-long Intercontinental Championship feud.